The Niles Sister Cities organization is reorganizing, hoping to get more residents to participate and be less tied to village government.
A new board was elected Thursday at a meeting on the topic, with George Alpogianis, who has chaired the Greek component of the Sister Cities, elected president. Alpogianis, a former trustee, is also running for village trustee in the April 2013 election.
Four other board members, including Dr. D. Laske, Julie Genualdi, Elizabeth "Cooky" Kraus and Hee Kim, were also elected.
Alpogianis said he wants to see more citizens get involved, rather than just people who have ties to village government.
"I don't want this turning into a political dog and pony show," Alpogianis said. "Sister Cities is to promote the goodness of citizens in different cities and countries. It's supposed to promote education and commerce."
The village has four Sister Cities, including Nafplion, Greece; Pisa, Italy; Leixlip, Ireland, and Limanowa, Poland.
Niles Village Attorney Joseph Annunzio said the newly-reorganized Sister Cities group will be a nonprofit corporation.
"Of course we (the village) will have a relationship with them, like we have a relationship with the Niles Historical Society," Annunzio said.
"The most important part is that there isn't any Niles official on the (Sister Cities) board."
While the Niles Sister Cities organization has always had separate financial accounts from the village, he said, the reorganization would make the lines between the village and Sister Cities "cleaner."
"So that nobody could say, for instance, that Sister Cities is there so elected officials can go on vacation," Annunzio clarified. "It's just another way of delineating responsibilities so there's no appearance of impropriety."
Niles Mayor Robert Callero, his wife Rita, former village manager George Van Geem and Annunzio traveled to Pisa for a three-day trip in June; the trip caused some citizens to ask whether only officials were allowed to go on the sojourns.
Alpogianis said it's appropriate to separate Sister Cities' finances from the village, but the organization's relationship with the village is still being worked out.
"We need to do some research and find out how other villages handle their relationships with Sister Cities," he said.